Train Your Silent Auction Table Monitors to Flirt…Sell

Silent Auction Table Monitor

Thanks to the US National Archives and Records Administration for this 1943 cartoon! Remixed by Shari. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Guest blogger and auctioneer Sherry Truhlar provides strategy for increasing your silent auction fundraising by training your silent auction table monitors to flirt, I mean sell. You’ll see what I mean…

Silent auction items rarely sell themselves. Inevitably, there are some items which won’t move without help. And virtually any item will command a higher dollar bid if some attention is given to it.

Sadly, most volunteer auction planners don’t realize that most of their fellow men and women volunteers – lovely people that they are – are ill-suited at direct sales. What skills they do have seem to dissipate quickly when they are surrounded by people they know. Many of these volunteers start to chit-chat rather than focus on the one task they’ve been given: selling. Yet we NEED THEM to sell.

Here is an example of how to sell.

At an SPCA auction in New Hampshire last month, an unusual package featuring a hydro-massage/bath-something-or-the-other for a dog sat at the end of the table. No one was bidding on it. It had some goodies with it (toys, a bed), but I gathered that the service itself was the pricier piece of the package. As I read through the description, it seemed that it might be a good fit for an older pet, a dog with sensitive skin, or any pooch that needed some extra TLC.

I turned to the nice volunteer serving as table monitor. He was standing by the table doing what many volunteers do: stoically guarding the table. <sigh> Sadly, volunteers tend not to engage. If asked, they will answer a question. But they do not actively sell. Perhaps they believe they are interrupting the guests.

After noticing this item with no bids, I suggested to the table monitor that he might want to promote that item. He seemed a bit unsure, so I showed him what I meant. As guests browsed his table, I started a conversation. “Do you happen to know of anyone with an older pet? This item is such a deal right now and it’s perfect for an older animal … or maybe a dog that has more sensitive skin, like bulldogs or bull terriers. It’s perfect for any dog that needs a little extra TLC …” (And what dog owner doesn’t believe their pet deserves some extra TLC?) The guest would turn their attention to what I was showing. I’d continue to show the item and talk about it, engaging the guest.

I pitched to a woman. No luck. I pitched to a man. No luck. But the third time I pitched, I got a bid from a woman who had a rescue dog and felt the creature needed extra TLC.

We were almost ready to close the silent auction before we got a bid on that item. Had I not been there to push it, it wouldn’t have gotten a bid.

The volunteer was impressed. “You’re good!” he said, and added “It’s flirty.” I wouldn’t call it flirting. I call it sales. But regardless of what you call it, it’s helpful. It saves your guests time. It gives them the highlights of the item so they can make a decision to bid.

If you use table monitors at your benefit auction, please spend some time training them to do this. Or alternatively, have your auctioneer show them how to do it prior to guests arriving. Teach volunteers how to sell. Explain to them that it’s OK to “interrupt bidders.”

Think about dining at a nice restaurant. We want your table monitors to interrupt the guests in the same way that a good waiter interrupts your table to make drink recommendations, show the dessert tray, or check-in with your party to ensure your meal is satisfactory. These interruptions aren’t annoying … they are helpful!

Call it flirting. Call it sales. Call it good customer service. You want your table monitors to do it. You’ll upsell your silent auction items and be happier with your returns. is Coming Soon – “Where Donors Find You!”

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Sherry Truhlar Bio PicSherry Truhlar of Red Apple Auctions is a charity auction educator and onstage auctioneer, helping schools and nonprofits across the USA plan more profitable benefit auctions. Her advice is tapped by planners around the world who seek to improve their benefit auctions, and she’s been covered in Town & Country, The Washington Post Magazine, Auctioneer, and other publications. Her no-cost annual item guide is downloaded by thousands each year who seek to discover the latest creative items trending in fundraising auctions. Get your complementary guide filled with 100 auction ideas at

That is one of Sherry’s auction adventures. How about yours?

Have you had success using auction table monitors? What training and natural talents should they have?

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